By Chris Ryndak - Bandits.com
Before the start of the season, John Tavares said that he'll keep playing professional lacrosse as long as he doesn't start embarrassing himself. He may have been half-joking at the time, but if the NLL's all-time leading scorer -- in his 21st season -- keeps having games like the one he had against Rochester, he might be playing for a long time to come.
Tavares led the way for Buffalo with four goals and four assists in the Bandits' 12-9 victory over the Knighthawks on Satuday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. Buffalo (2-0) scored four consecutive fourth-quarter goals in a span of 3:14 to pull away from Rochester (1-1). Tavares tied the game at six at the 10:18 mark of the third quarter and went on to add two goals and two assists on four of the Bandits' five goals in the final frame.
The Bandits entered the fourth quarter with a 7-6 lead following forward Chad Culp's go-ahead goal at the end of the third quarter. Tavares earned his hat trick as he opened the scoring 44 seconds into the fourth on the power play to extend the lead. But Rochester's Stephen Keogh scored his second goal of the night on the next possession to put the Knighthawks within one. It's as close as Rochester would get for the rest of the game.
Tavares would score another power play goal for his fourth of the game to set off the Bandits' offense. A second goal from Culp was bookended by two goals from forward Roger Vyse. A healthy scratch against Toronto last weekend, Vyse finished Saturday's game with three points (2+1). At that point, the Bandits led, 12-7.
Rochester came on strong in the final minutes, cutting the Bandits' lead to two with 5:22 left. Bandits goaltender Mike Thompson came up with two big saves on Cody Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli, respectively, in the final minute of play to seal the win.
Goals were scarce early and for the first 25 minutes or so, it looked like fans would be treated to a battle between the goaltenders, with Thompson and the Knighthawks' Matt Vinc making great saves at both ends to keep the game close. Thompson finished the game with 31 saves on 40 shots while Vinc stopped 36 of 48.
Bandits forward Luke Wiles opened the scoring 4:38 into the game with a hard drive to the net for his fourth goal of the season. Rochester's Keogh tied the game 6:10 later for the only other goal of the first quarter.
There weren't any more goals scored until the 11:23 mark of the second quarter but they then came fast and furiously. Buffalo transition player Mark Steenhuis broke the scoring drought to put the Bandits ahead, 2-1, but just three seconds later, Rochester's Alexander-Keoh Hill tied the game. Thirty-three seconds after that, Tavares put home his first of the night, but that lead would only last 21 seconds as Jamieson scored his first of three goals.
It would take a full minute of play before Steenhuis could give the Bandits a 4-3 lead going into the half. Coming off the bench, Steenhuis caught a long pass from Tavares, who was still in Buffalo's end, and ran in to score on a breakaway.
The back-and-forth affair continued into the third quarter as Wiles scored again 1:41 in to give the Bandits a two-goal lead, only to have it cut in half by Jamieson 41 seconds later. Wiles would end up with two goals and four assists. Rochester would tie the game and take the lead on consecutive goals from Jordan Hall and Mike Accursi before the Bandits took command, starting with Tavares' game-tying goal.
The Bandits next play against the Philadelphia Wings (1-1) on Friday at First Niagara Center. Face-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.